A staggering GBP 22 billion (USD 28.91 billion) looks set to be lost from the UK economy due to the collapse of international travel during 2020, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Travellers and tourists are staying away from the UK in droves because of continuing uncertainty around travel restrictions designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
As a result, this year international visitor spending could plunge by 78% compared to 2019 levels, equating to a loss of GBP 60 million (USD 78.85 million) a day, or GBP 420 million (USD 551.94 million) a week, to the UK economy.
The severe impact on UK travel is laid bare by WTTC as the economic fallout from coronavirus continues to burn its way through the sector. Nearly three million jobs in the UK supported by travel and tourism are at risk of being lost in a ‘worst case’ scenario mapped out by WTTC economic modelling.
According to WTTC’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, during 2019, travel was responsible for almost four million UK jobs, or 11% of the country’s total workforce.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said: “The economic pain and suffering caused to millions of households across the UK, who are dependent upon Travel & Tourism for their livelihoods, is evident from the latest WTTC figures. The lack of international travel caused by the pandemic could wipe out more than GBP 22 billion (USD 28.91 billion) from the UK economy alone – from which it could take years to recover. It could also threaten London’s position as one of the world’s premier hubs for business and leisure travel which could see other destinations take over.”
“We urgently need to replace stop-start quarantine measures with rapid, comprehensive and cost-effective test and trace programmes at departure points across the country. This investment will be significantly less than the impact of blunt quarantines which have devastating and far-reaching socio-economic consequences. Targeted test and tracing will also rebuild consumer confidence to travel. It will enable the restoration of vital ‘air corridors’ between countries and regions with similar COVID-19 case rates. A quick turnaround test and trace system in place for all departing passengers means the government could consider reinstating travel between the UK and major international hubs. Restoring business class travel between the world’s top financial centres, such as London and New York, would act as an engine to help kick-start the economic global recovery,” she added.